Sony Corp president and CEO Kazuo Hirai stressed the importance of free speech during comments at CES on Monday (January 5) about the recent cyber attack on Sony Pictures and the blighted release of The Interview.

Hirai, whose intervention to tone down a sequence in the film depicting the assassination of North Korean leader Kim-Jong Un was exposed in a string of embarrassing leaks that afflicted the studio, said freedom of speech and freedom of expression were “important to the lifeblood [sic] of Sony and our entertainment business.”

The chief used his address at Las Vegas - the first time he has spoken publicly on the hacking scandal - to praise everyone who stood up to attempts to sabotage the film’s release in the wake of cyber attacks late last year.

Sony Pictures withdrew from its scheduled wide release of The Interview on December 25 after the five major US exhibitors pulled out.

Following an outcry from film-makers and other Hollywood players, the studio implemented a U-turn and and backed a digital and limited theatrical launch after its December 17 announcement that it had no further release plans for the film.